30 Day Declutter Challenge
The 30 Day Declutter Challenge is a series of spaces in your home for you to declutter in 30 minutes on each of 30 days. We want to help you to start, and finish, the 30 Day Declutter Challenge. In this article we’re going to take a look at what you’ll be doing each day. We want to help you develop a 30 day declutter plan that will start you on a path to a sustainable, long-term decluttered home.
Studies have shown that when you frame your tasks as a test or challenge, you will be more likely to persist and succeed. A great example of such research was recently done by faculty at Stanford in Mind-set Interventions Are a Scalable Treatment for Academic Underachievement. While it was in the context of academics, the lesson is likely more widely applicable.
We’re going to give you 30 spaces in your home to declutter. You’re going to spend at least 30 minutes on each of 30 days decluttering those spaces. (We’ll clarify this a bit in the rules below!)
The spaces we’ve chosen are those in your home that have a big negative impact when cluttered, and which we think you can make significant progress within the time of the challenge. We will touch on every single space below!
Free 30 Day Declutter Challenge Printable
This is where you should start! We have a free 30 Day Declutter Challenge Printable Checklist for you to use!
Make sure to check it out and, ideally, print it for yourself so that you can keep track of your progress.
We also discuss the rules in the 30 Day Declutter Challenge Printable Checklist, and we’re going to say much the same thing here.
Rule #1 At Least 2 Days Per Week
30 days straight of any substantial amount of time is very difficult for anyone with a typical life. Between family, friends, work, and other chores, any time every single day really adds up.
But we think that 2 days per week is doable for anyone. Try to not do two days in a row, but it’s okay if sometimes you have to.
The reason that we prefer that you space the days out over the week is that regularity is a better way to develop habits than being sporadic. Try to use the same times on the same days each week.
Rule #2 At Least 30 Minutes Per Task
You need to spend at least 30 minutes decluttering whatever space is the task for the day. We want to make sure that you’re making substantial progress with your clutter. You will be amazed at what you will accomplish in 15 or more cumulative hours that you’ll spend over the span of 30 days!
You don’t need to finish each space that you start. Decluttering a packed shed, or stuffed attic, won’t be possible in 30 minutes. But you need to do your best to make a dent in it. It’s all about genuine, incremental progress.
Rule #3 If You Don't Possess The Space, Declutter Elsewhere!
If you don’t have a garage, a car, an attic, or other things on the list, that is normal and okay! We included them because they are often the worst places in the house for clutter, so those that do have them need to make sure that they start to declutter them.
If you get to a day that assigns a space that you don’t have, go back to something you didn’t have time to finish earlier on the list.
If you’ve managed to finish all of the prior spaces (that’s amazing!!), look ahead to one of the upcoming spaces that you’ll need to tackle and start on that.
The important thing is to always make sure you’re spending your minimum of 30 minutes on something that declutters your space! No shortcuts.
Rule #4 Put a Big Red X Through Each Completed Day
We know that it will seem silly to some of you, but we really want you to give it a try anyway. It is incredibly satisfying to mark the successful completion of a task with something like this.
These little things give you things to look forward to that can truly help to motivate you when you’re doing your next task!
Before you get started there are a few things that you should check out that will greatly help you to succeed.
The first is our article on How to Define Declutter. The reason that it’s so important is that if you’re going to dedicate all of this time and energy to “decluttering”, you should be very clear about what, exactly, you’re trying to do! We talk about what ‘clutter’ and ‘declutter’ mean in a way that you can apply to your thinking while you’re doing your tasks.
You should also check out our 12 Common Decluttering Mistakes (And How to Solve Them). There we discuss some really common pitfalls that you might encounter, and also how you might deal with them.
Now…let’s get to the challenge!
The 30 Days
The 30 Day Declutter Challenge is a sprint, even if you’re doing only a couple of days per week. It’s a lot of decluttering in a fairly short period of time.
But what you always need to remember is that keeping your home decluttered is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. So think of this as a quick spurt of energy that will get you started on what is actually a long road.
We’re going to take a quick peek at each of the days of the challenge. We want to give you an idea of why we chose each spot so that we’re all on the same page.
Day 1: Under the Kitchen Sink
Empty cleaning liquids. Dirty scouring pads. Old shoe polish? The space beneath the kitchen sink is a great place for Day 1 of the Challenge because it’s in a high-traffic area of your home, and is low-hanging fruit in terms of clutter cleanup.
The space under kitchen sinks usually doesn’t have dozens of items to sort through–it’s typically just a few. But somehow those few very much make the space cluttered and less useful as storage. Start Day 1 strong by removing old hardened soap containers, useless rags and pads, and anything that isn’t actually used in a kitchen. Put things that don’t belong there into an appropriate place in the room in which they are used, or another more appropriate space.
Day 2: Medicine Cabinet
Medicine cabinets typically contain a mix of medicines, cleaning products, and grooming products. The medicines, in our experience, are often expired and should be disposed of. The cleaning and grooming products may have a more appropriate location in which they can be stored.
How To Dispose Of Medication
You should not dispose of medication in the garbage, toilet, or down a drain. Having masses of medication disposed of those ways can be bad for both the environment and human drinking water. Instead, take it to your local major pharmacy: let the pharmacist know that you have medication to dispose of, and they will take it and dispose of it with no questions asked. Don’t worry about being judged; the process is designed to get the medication disposed of safely and anonymously.
Day 3: Master Bedroom Closet
For some of you, this will be a big job. As we’ve discussed in other articles, clothes closets are a challenge because they have both sentimentality and the “maybe I’ll need this someday” problems to overcome. Be aware of these while you’re decluttering this space.
You may find that your closet structures just aren’t appropriate for accomplishing the storage that you need. Check out our 10 Affordable Closet Organizer Solutions to Declutter Your Bedroom for some possible solutions! You should also check out our How to Get Rid of Clothing (For Money) if you’re able to get yourself to part with anything.
Day 4: Under Beds
While Day 3 only had you tackle the closet in the master bedroom, on Day 4 we want you to declutter under all of your home’s beds. This is sometimes an unpleasant job because you might need to fight off colonies of dust bunnies, but it isn’t a time-consuming one. There isn’t any sorting involved, and if something was able to live unneeded under a bed for a long period of time: you don’t need it!
In our 10 Affordable Solutions to Declutter Using Wasted Space we suggest a pair of under-bed bags designed to make good use of that space. Consider checking them out!
Day 5: Linen Closets
The contents of linen closets typically don’t have the sentimentality issues that bedroom closet-contents do. But they certainly have the “maybe I’ll use this someday” problem! Make sure you’re honest with yourself about the usefulness of those old sheets that you have actually never had to use–it might be time to dispose of them.
Day 6: Toy Area
Toy areas are perpetually clutter-ridden in some homes, we understand that! We don’t want to suggest that keeping toys well-stored and decluttered is easy. But it is possible.
The challenge is that while you build long-term decluttering habits for yourself, you must also imbue them into your children. It’s the only way to accomplish this in a sustainable way.
Part of this is to have appropriate storage for toys. Check out our 10 Affordable Solutions to Declutter Your Kids’ Toys for some suggestions that might be appropriate for your space.
Day 7: Fridge
Most fridges seem to include at least some condiments that have been expired for some number of years. It’s just the way things go sometimes. Today is the day to get out of that trap!
While you’re sorting through the contents of your fridge don’t just look for things that are expired. Look also for things that you know nobody will ever use and will become expired someday soon.
While we have your attention we’d also like to note that part of keeping your fridge decluttered in the long-term is being more careful when you’re grocery shopping. Avoid getting things that you won’t use the entirety of.
Day 8: "Junk Drawer"
We aren’t against junk drawers. There are just some things that don’t deserve their own storage area–we understand and agree! But if you’re going to have such a space in your home, you need to make sure to curate it carefully.
Junk drawers are the quintessential “maybe I’ll need this someday” spaces. The thing is, if you’re honest with yourself, you will probably find that you probably won’t need most of those things someday. And if you do need them, they probably cost pennies. Be ruthless with your junk drawer.
Day 9: Shed
If you have a shed then you know that they are often black holes for clutter. The clutter gets in there and it seems as though it can never leave.
This is a task that you very likely won’t be able to complete in your allotted time for the day. That’s okay! Do your best to sort, and to understand what’s there, so that you can come back to it another day with a much better idea of what will need to be done.
If you find anything that you know you can dispose of immediately, don’t wait! Get rid of it right away.
Day 10: Garage
Like sheds, in many homes garage often accumulate clutter quickly. What you should be focusing on for today is sorting what can be easily sorted, and disposing of anything you know immediately you don’t really need.
This is very likely too big of a job to complete today. That’s okay! As with the shed, do your best to sort, and to understand what’s there. That way you can come back to it another day with a much better idea of what will need to be done.
Day 11: Car
For many of us, a new car is decluttered for the first few days, then it’s clutter for the remainder of its existence. Today you will start to change that.
This might be a job that can’t be completed in the allotted time for the day. It is also, we admit, one of the less pleasant tasks. The space under car seats is…gross. There’s no way around it. But try to distinguish between cleaning and decluttering–today worry less about cleaning, more about taking things that don’t belong in the car out of the car.
Do your best to stomach getting things out from under the seats. Good luck. We believe in you.
Day 12: Attic
Few people have usable attics, but those who do tend to fill them with things that aren’t looked at for years, even decades. When you are sorting this space, think very hard about whether you really need to keep these items. The sentimentality problem is often very powerful with attic-items, so be aware of that.
Attics are tough to access and tough to sort. We are quite sure that for most of you this will be too big of a job to complete today. That’s okay! Do your best to sort, and to understand what’s there, plan come back to it another day with a much better idea of what will need to be done.
Day 13: Basement
Day 14: Bedside Tables
Bedside table day should be easily completed in the time you’ve allotted! This should be a nice change from the last batch of days. You should be able to get to all of the bedside tables in your home.
Don’t ignore the space beneath the tables, and don’t ignore any drawers. Bedside tables are very useful, but very often have at least a few things that you have not touched in months. Those things shouldn’t be there.
Day 15: Coffee Tables
Most homes don’t contain many coffee tables. One, maybe two. So you should plan to get to all of them today.
If you usually “store” things like magazines or books, or anything other than decorations, on your coffee tables: we urge you to reconsider. You don’t want these to be an established space to simply dump items of that sort.
Day 16: Laundry Room
Laundry rooms seem to often be designated for storing all sorts of things that don’t belong in living rooms or kitchens but aren’t quite right for attics, basements, or sheds. We’ve seen linens, board games, old clothes, camping gear, and all sorts of other things. If this is what yours is like: time to rethink!
Try to sort the room by separating things that are related to laundry and things that aren’t. If you have a lot of things that aren’t related to laundry and truly nowhere else in your home that’s more appropriate to put those things: try to dispose of some of them, or if you can’t do that, consider getting new storage in a more appropriate location that would suit this need. Our 10 Very Affordable Solutions to Declutter Your Stuff could give you some general, affordable ideas for what you could do.
Day 17: Under Bathroom Sinks
The space under bathroom sinks seems to be especially cluttered if you don’t have a medicine cabinet in the room. So if you skipped medicine cabinet day because you don’t have one, and you store medicines down here: take a look at it now and pretend this space is a medicine cabinet!
Just like with the space under the kitchen sink, make sure you’re looking at whether any cleaning items are still any good. And also be careful to dispose of anything that you haven’t used in months, and probably won’t ever use.
Day 18: Other Bedroom Closets
You’ve already tackled your master bedroom closet. Now it’s time for the rest. Typically other closets don’t contain as many items as the master bedroom’s, and don’t suffer from the same sentimentality, and “maybe I’ll use this someday” problems–at least, not as powerfully.
Be honest with yourself about whether you need to keep the things in your closets. And don’t forget the closet that has your coats!
Day 19: Mail & Bills
This isn’t a space, but many people are not good at dealing with snail mail (let alone email) on time. Today is the day! Get rid of the dreaded junk mail, make a special pile for bills, and deal with anything that needs immediate attention.
We have read that according to Harris Interactive 23% of US households pay their bills late because their homes are too cluttered and they lose the bills. Yikes! (Despite looking for almost an hour we couldn’t find the original source for this, so take it with a grain of salt. But if the number is anywhere close to this, it’s reason to be concerned!)
Day 20: Pantry
The pantry, while in many homes filled to overflowing, is usually not too difficult of a decluttering task.
Don’t simply look for expired items. Be honest with yourself about which items you’re actually going to use and dispose of the ones that will just sit there forever. Also, consider carefully which items are appropriately placed in the pantry. Move items to better storage spaces if they would be better suited to somewhere else.
If you find yourself without enough storage in your kitchen, or just not appropriate storage, check out our 10 Affordable Solutions to Declutter Your Kitchen for some suggestions of solutions.
Day 21: Bathroom Sink & Shelves
You already tackled under the bathroom sinks, but not on the sink. If you keep some of your toiletries on the rim of your sink or the counter beside it, we want you to seriously consider whether they are in the best place that they could be.
Dispose of expired and unused items, as usual, but also be thinking about where you could put those items that you usually keep on the sink. They are convenient there, we understand. But they are clutter, and if they can be stored more appropriately, they should be.
If you have space under your sink after your decluttering there on an earlier day, consider whether any items that are currently above the sink could be permanently moved below it.
Day 22: Shoes
Shoes are so difficult to store efficiently that they almost inevitably cause clutter. There are two main ways to deal with them: you can get rid of shoes, or you can get appropriate shoe storage.
We strongly recommend having fewer shoes. Even good shoe storage is often not ideal. Consider very carefully whether you need every pair of shoes that is causing clutter. If you do, you will need to find appropriate storage. If you don’t already have it then you might find ideas in our 10 Very Affordable Solutions to Declutter Your Stuff.
Day 23: Filing Cabinets
Fewer and fewer households have filing cabinets. But those who do seem to either have incredibly neat filing cabinets or incredibly disorganized ones.
If you have a disorganized filing cabinet: today is the day to start sorting it out. Since you may not have enough time to finish, we suggest sorting into very broad categories that will enable you to more easily make progress the next time you can tackle the space.
Day 24: Office Desks
2020 had many people starting to work from home, and it seems as though working from home will continue to be a trend for the foreseeable future. Even if you don’t have a real “office desk”–we know from experience that many dining room tables are doing double-duty right now–that space is what you need to tackle today. We’ve written a whole article about 12 Quick Easy Tips to Declutter Your Home Office–we encourage you to give it a read!
Most homes don’t have purpose-built office storage. But we find that bookcases do a pretty great job, especially if you have many documents to keep in order. A dedicated article on office storage is in the works here at Declutter, but in the mean time you might want to take a look at our 10 Affordable and Creative Solutions to Declutter Your Books.
Day 25: Kitchen Sink & Shelves
As you did in your bathrooms earlier in this challenge, instead of looking under your sinks, today you’re going to keep your focus on top of them.
We actually don’t want you to look inside your kitchen cupboards today; unless one counts as a “junk cabinet”, we find that most people’s kitchen cupboards are reasonably organized. It helps that most kitchen items are designed to be stackable.
Instead, look at your counters. Do you need that bread machine on the counter? How often do you use the smoothie maker? Do you need a French press and a drip coffee maker all beside your coffee-from-pods maker?
We know that storing these elsewhere is challenging since some of them are probably pretty big. But that doesn’t mean that they need to be on your counter! Think hard about where else they could go, and whether you need to keep them at all.
Day 26: Dresser Drawers
What we have in mind here are the dresser drawers, if you have them, in your master bedroom. You won’t have time to sort through every item, but that’s okay. If you are already aware of that section at the back of the bottom drawer that has items of clothing that you haven’t worn in years: they need to go!
If you have time, take this task to any other dresser drawers in your home.
Day 27: TV Room Shelves
We called this the “TV Room” rather than just the living room because it’s the area around your television that we want you to tackle. If you have piles of movies, remotes, coasters, or anything else, that is what you want to sort out today. How many of them do you really need? It might be donation time.
Try to find dedicated spaces for items like the TV remote that tend to just float around, and are often just left wherever they were last used. Think “where could this easily go after every use so that it will never get lost again?”
Day 28: Bath/Shower
Remember that you aren’t cleaning/scrubbing for this challenge. What you should do today is consider which items you have in the bath/shower actually need to be there. Do you have empty bottles? Tiny useless soaps? Dull razors? They need to go!
Day 29: Walls
This is a funny one! Take a look at your walls. Are the things on them what you want to be there? What we have in mind is everything from sticky notes and whiteboards (wipe those whiteboards, that’s visual clutter!) to posters and even art that isn’t right for the space.
Think about what really belongs on the walls of the spaces you’re looking at. Truly take some time to consider each room.
Day 30: Wallet/Purse
You know who you are! Some people have jam-packed wallets, and there’s a reason that “I can’t find my keys in my purse” is a stand-up comic staple. It is very, very common. This writer went minimal with his wallet years ago, and I haven’t looked back! It’s wonderful, and I can’t recommend it strongly enough.
What really needs to be in there? Keep only those things. Be honest with yourself.
The 30 Day Declutter Challenge is a wonderful way to make significant progress on your journey to a decluttered home. In this article we’ve tried to give you a bit of insight into what we had in mind when we included each of the days.
We hope that you start the Challenge. We hope even more that you finish the Challenge. If you’ve scrolled all the way down here and you’re thinking “this is just too much”, take a look at our Where Do I Start Decluttering My House When I Feel Overwhelmed? That might be a place to start before moving on to this challenge.
Please consider sharing the 30 Day Declutter challenge with your family and friends. It really helps us, and might really help them too! Especially if you share on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook.